Ozzie and Harriet beds: The aftermath of sleeping separately

May 30 | Guest post by venus

This is in response to the insomniac post. I saw a few comments like, "Separate beds will help. Separate rooms would probably help even more." Having experience with this, I wanted to lend my two cents.

By: Maegan TintariCC BY 2.0
My partner and I sleep in separate beds, and I am not sure how I feel about about it.

We were sleeping on a queen mattress my partner had bought several years ago, which was fine for him, but lacking for me. I desperately wanted a memory foam mattress, and he mostly wanted to keep his current mattress, but neither of us was sleeping very well there, for a few reasons.

  1. He's six feet tall and generally is longer than whatever bed he's sleeping on, so he sleeps diagonally. I have trouble sleeping, and had a hard time falling asleep when I had to curve my body around him.
  2. We had blanket/temperature disagreements: I believe that a bed should be very warm and double as a fort, and he's pretty minimalist about covers, and would be annoyed when my extra blankets inevitably encroached on his space, a precious commodity in that bed.
  3. We have a cat who takes up a shocking amount of room, and always found ways to leave one or both of us uncomfortable on the edges of the bed.

Two beds was originally his idea, but once he said it out loud, I immediately began championing it. I prize sleep above all else, and if I'm not sleeping well, everything else suffers. This seemed like the perfect solution to all of our issues. After five months, I can say that it has definitely been a mixed bag, with a few unintended consequences.

We do sleep better

This was the goal, and it has been achieved. I LOVE my bed. It is my special happy place, and I hate when I have to sleep in other places. My partner feels the same way, and both of us have felt that we got what we wanted in terms of improving our sleep.

It has created distance and space between us

Literally. My bed is on a box spring and metal frame, and his is in the low-to-the-ground wooden IKEA frame he's always used. We put a nightstand in between so that we'd both have access to the alarm clock, but it mostly serves to create a literal chasm, with me up high and him down low, and neither of us able to see the other when lying in bed.

Back when we slept in one bed we would hang out before going to sleep — cuddling, catching up, being silly — it was one of my favorite parts of our relationship. Now, that nightly ritual has been somewhat disrupted. We tend to solve it by hanging out in one bed or the other, but it sucks when we get comfortable and start to fall asleep in my bed and then he has to get up and go to his bed. I'm not sure yet how much emotional distance this is causing between us, but it is definitely changing things. I start to feel some regret, because the bed I bought is a full, and there's no WAY that we could both sleep there long term — it's too short for him to be comfortable. But since I invested in the bed, we're kind of stuck with it.

One way to deal with this that we've discussed is to get rid of the night stand and get him a frame so that we can push the beds together into one giant SuperBed.

I forget that it isn't typical

I am always super confused when people talk about being careful getting into bed so as not to disrupt their partner, or other co-sleeping banalities. My frame of reference has completely shifted, and two beds seems like the obvious default to me now. While this isn't something I generally discuss publicly, one time I accidently let the cat out of the bag when talking to a coworker because I mentioned washing my partners' sheets separate from my own. I forgot that what I was describing was atypical! That changed the conversation pretty quickly, to one I didn't mean to be having!

It can be AWKWARD when someone notices

I don't know how to talk about this with people, so I generally don't, and try to keep the bedroom door shut. Except we have roof access from our bedroom door, and we want to bring guests out onto the roof. Most often, no one says anything. It is incredibly awkward when someone sees the two beds, and I see them seeing them, but no one addresses it… Most people don't want to be impolite, but I can never find the words to bring it up, so I don't.

I am always blissfully relieved when someone blurts out "Wow! Separate beds!" because then we have an avenue to discuss it. It does produce extra anxiety for me when we have new people over and I know they might see the two beds and have questions, but not know how to ask them. I don't mind the curiosity, but with new friends or casual acquaintances, I never know how to broach the subject, and it becomes a white elephant. (My partner doesn't find it nearly as awkward as I do.)

So, would I recommend it?

I don't know. Sleep has improved, but it has definitely had an impact on our relationship. Neither of us can accurately gauge just how big that impact is, but we both feel it. We're taking steps to minimize it, and to make sure that the physical space between us doesn't create an emotional one.

  1. Thank you for the follow up post. I read the original insomnia post and remember thinking what a difficult situation you must be in. I do have a suggestion, in case you haven't thought about it already. What about having one or two nights a week where you do share a bed–it'd help with the intimacy factor and you'd still both get plenty of sleep on other nights. And, from my perspective (I'm not an insomniac and neither is my partner so take it for what it's worth), your situation is not much different from many people's situations. It looks different, but it's not. When one person is sick or snoring, then people sleep separately. When one person is tired and the other person is not, then they fall asleep separately (even if the awake one eventually moves to the bed, but there are plenty of times when that person falls asleep on the couch). Your situation is much better, I think, because you're still sharing the same space, even if it's not the same sleeping space. :-)

    13 agree
    • I've been strongly considering this, myself. My boyfriend sometimes sleeps in the spare room to let me sleep because I'm a light sleeper and he snores. The ideal situation for me would be to only sleep together on weekends, and sleep separately when I have to get up early.

      3 agree
      • This is exactly what my boyfriend and I do. He has to wake at 3:30 am for work and I don't get up until 7. On the weekdays, we each sleep in our own room, but we always make sure to have to quiet time together before bed. He is also required to come into my room to kiss my goodbye in the morning. On nights when one of us doesn't have to be at work the next day (weekends and holidays) we both sleep in my bed. It's worked out wonderfully for us; I guess because it's what we've always done, we even discussed it at length before we moved in together. I can't even get flustered when people make a comment about it, because I believe that deep down they are just a little jealous.

        8 agree
    • Hi, OP here! I just wanted to say that I'm not the author of the previous post, so this is actually more "response to" than a follow up! Sorry for the confusion!

      2 agree
  2. Obviously, you have to do what you have to do to sleep, because we all need decent sleep to function. My best friend is a terrible insomniac, her husband snores like a downshifting dump truck, they have a toddler and sleep is very important for them; they sleep in seperate rooms and it seems to be a positive thing for them.

    I on the other hand…have weird hang ups about sleeping apart. I can't even articulate why really well. I had a bad marriage, he always insisted on sleeping apart, and so sleeping in seperate beds has become synonymous in my mind with something being wrong with the relationship. Logically I know this is stupid; plenty of people sleep apart and have perfectly happy relationships. In certain cases doing so might even help or save the relationship. And I'm guessing its way more common than we all think it is.

    Still…I'd have to do Superbed. We have an enormous memory foam mattress that is way big enough for the two of us. And I'm with you in that I firmly believe once you've experienced The Foam, going back to a regular mattress is torture.

    1 agrees
    • Honestly Superbed sounds pretty awesome even if you don't have sleeping-together issues. We've talked about how we need a king size or a big round bed so we'd have enough space for our two dogs to sleep up there without requiring me to contort myself (I usually end up kicking them off but I feel a little guilty about it… and then they sneak back up and spoon with you, butt-to-face.)

      6 agree
      • Thank you for your response! An update: in the time between submitting this post and now, we have actually converted to SuperBed, and it is seriously great! I do think it's made a difference and helped us to feel a little closer! We're still at different elevations though (just shoved the existing beds together), which makes our "commuting" from bed to bed a little more fun and cute, because we're always rolling up or down on each other. It's hard to describe, but it's lovely and has the feel of a constant slumber party. (In a good way!)

        23 agree
        • We have one bed with different elevations too – I have a memory foam mattress pad which I love and my partner hates, so it's folded in half and lives on my side of the bed. Looks ridiculous, probably not good for the mattress pad, but it works. And snuggling means rolling and rolling is fun!

          3 agree
  3. This is fascinating! Do you have a guest room or a futon or somewhere else where you could cuddle but not sleep, per se? Just thinking out loud. Also, I do think your idea of elevating the other bed to at least be on the same plane is a good one. I do value sleep quite a bit and fully support your efforts to prioritize it.

    0 agree
  4. I have always wanted seperate beds (or even rooms!) mostly because my partner snores and needs to be up at 5am for work and I need quiet when I sleep and don't go to bed until 1 am usually. Most articles just rave about seperate spaces but I really llenjoyed your honesty about something missing.

    2 agree
    • My husband and I have separate beds AND separate rooms. I love it, he hates it.

      I agree with the author that this arrangement does take a toll on the relationship, but so does sleeping in the same bed and getting no sleep.

      My husband suggested the idea of sleeping in the same bed on weekends only as a compromise but I still get no sleep on weekends…he always goes to bed early and gets up early so I always end up trying to squeeze into bed in the dark and staying in bed really late to catch up on sleep and it wastes my entire weekend.

      This is a real issue. I have no idea how so many couples over centuries have slept in the same bed and not killed each other over it. To me, this is a bigger issue in the relationship than cheating would be. Not sleeping affects your health, your work life, your relationship, your personality….everything!

      8 agree
      • Oh my gosh, so much. Not sleeping is the worst. I hope there's a resolution for you!

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      • My boyfriend is very resistant to sleeping apart, but I'm the one who suffers from my light sleeping and his snoring. He occasionally sleeps in the guest room when he's feeling particularly restless and feels like he's bothering me, but not often to really help. The lack of quality sleep is having an effect on my health, probably more than I realize. I tend toward depression, irritability, lethargy, and weight gain when I'm in relationships, and I've recently started to wonder if there might be some correlation between that and chronic poor sleep.

        7 agree
      • We upgraded to a king size bed (our double couldn't cut it), and even though we bought king size bedding, we still sleep with separate covers. I take the sheets, lots of pillows (seriously, I creat a pillow fortress around my upper body!), and a separate duvet. My husband also has a duget and (not as many) pillows.

        I usually go to bed first, and get much better sleep that way. I find when we're both in the bed at night we spend time chatting, etc and it's more difficult to calm down for bed.

        2 agree
  5. That's funny– my husband and I went the opposite way when we were first engaged. I was all super-Christian at the time, and living together was a bad enough sin, but SLEEPING together?! The horror! The guilt! The omg-what-if-people-find-out?! (Um, not in the Biblical sense. I was more than happy to be doing that. Consistency, I know.) So we started out with bunk beds, but more often than not we'd end up crammed together into one twin bunk or the other. Finally we took the top bunk down and created the Superbed. The seam down the middle was a little uncomfortable, but we lived.

    4 agree
  6. My husband and I have temporarily moved into a dorm, and our only option is sleeping in separate beds. (European twin beds are smaller than American beds – and ours are built into custom frames that can't move.)
    I agree our actual sleep is much better.
    What we have found is that we cuddle and touch and do the sex with much more intention now. We have to try to spend physical time together. I think it is quite satisfying to say "I need to be touched" and then your partner saying basically "I want to touch you."
    But the flip side is the "I need to sleep now, can you go to your own bed?" And that kinda sucks.

    5 agree
  7. My husband and I have been sleeping apart for several months now by necessity, because our mattress is falling apart and one side gives whoever's sleeping on it serious back problems. Since we don't have the funds to spring for a new mattress right now, we've switched off sleeping in the spare room on the futon (which has a surprisingly comfortable mattress!), so not only are we sleeping in separate beds, but in separate rooms.

    I have to admit, we both like it a lot, and we've already started talking about rearranging some things so that we can have separate bedrooms permanently. It's helped tremendously with our sleep, since he snores like crazy, I have RLS, and our schedules are very different (he's a much earlier riser than I am). I also have stepkids who come to stay with us for long stretches of time, and while they have the run of the house, I find myself wishing I had a space that was "my room" instead of all of the rooms being "ours" and so also theirs whenever they're over.

    In the intimacy department, we've actually found that it helps to sleep in separate rooms. Not just because we sleep better and so have more energy and interest, but because there's an extra bit of romance when one of us suggests that we both retire to the bedroom together. Instead of it being routine, it adds an extra spark. We still do a lot of cuddling, but since our schedules are so different we rarely fell asleep at the same time anyway, so one of us getting up to move to the other room is not much of a burden (I would often feel bad about reading in bed with the light on if he was trying to sleep, since I really like falling asleep to a good book — now I don't have to worry!). The only down side is that I really hate the feeling of waking up in the morning and not knowing if he's left for work yet or not, it feels very disorienting. But usually he'll come in briefly to say goodbye before he heads off.

    So it definitely works for us. Most of our friends don't find it all that strange anymore, but it is weird to be reminded every once in a while that most people still think sleeping in separate beds means the marriage is on the rocks. We've never been happier. :)

    6 agree
    • It hadn't occurred to me that sleeping together when you usually sleep separately would add a spark, but that makes a lot of sense! Maybe that will help me convince my boyfriend to make the switch.

      1 agrees
      • That makes me think of high school. That same spark and butterflies in your stomach when you sneak a boy over and you finally get the chance to lay together. OOOO! That must be why my husband always get it on when we're traveling and in someone else's bed! O_O

        4 agree
  8. My ex and I slept in different beds when we moved in together.

    Before we moved in together I'd spend the night at his place and sleep in his bed – he'd stay the night at my place and sleep in my bed. We'd have fun, silly, awesome sleepovers all the time. When we were in bed together it was our playpen (in a mostly nonsexual way) and our sanctuary from the world.

    Once we moved in together we decided to sleep in separate beds for a few reasons:
    1. He had just started working evenings and came home at weird hours, I did not. So, I went to bed and woke up much earlier than he did.
    2. His parents didn't like the idea of us living together before we got married. The separate beds eased their anxiety.
    3. He's tall, I'm short – blankets and sleeping positions were always an issue (though, an issue that didn't bother either of us too much before living together).
    4. I've always enjoyed sleeping with my kitty once in a while, but he doesn't like animals in the bed. Moving in together we had 2 cats – so if my kitty decided to sleep with us, his would too (making 4 creatures in one bed… not too comfy for the one who doesn't like non-humans in bed).

    A couple good reasons, a couple crap reasons, but they all added up to us deciding two beds in our new home was a good idea.

    We broke up a few months after moving in together, after almost 5 years of being together and 2 years of basically living at one another's houses (staying for weeks on end and such). I know the separate beds didn't play a major role in our breakup, and I know that it works really well for some people. But I also know that I would never, ever do it again.

    Always remember to make time for snuggly playtime and cuddles. I've grown to be pretty sure those are important parts of the foundation of a lasting relationship.

    0 agree
  9. My grandparents slept in separate beds after my grandfather has his leg amputated.
    They had separate sheets/duvets each but the beds were pushed together to make one giant bed.

    I think adding an equal height frame to his mattress could be the solution, then it's only a roll over to get back to your own beds after a cuddle rather than a get up and get into a different bed

    9 agree
  10. We've considered sleeping on separate beds, but it was always on the understanding that the beds would be side by side–because, ya know, Super Bed? But we haven't made the switch because making the memory foam mattress match height to the traditional mattress has been too hard for me to figure out without building a custom platform and for fear of THE CHASM. I'm a total pleasure piggie when it comes to sleep–I love my sleep, I love my space, I want it all for me! Unfortunately, I could totally see myself being like "No, this bed is mine go away zzzzz" at any boyfriendly advances. =\

    9 agree
  11. Please do the giant bed thing! Just place a shelf over your head (High enough so you can sit in the bed, have sex and don't worry about knocking it of…) I've had two single beds places next to each other for a long while and being able to strech you arm oryour leg and reach for your partner is a sweetness you ought to both of you!

    1 agrees
  12. This is very interesting. Growing up, my mom's parents had separate twin beds in a shared bedroom. My grandfather was in WWII and suffered from horrible nightmares, such that it became dangerous for them to sleep in the same bed. I guess it worked for them, in their situation.

    Were it not for our love of cuddling, this might be a good solution for my husband and me. Right now we share a full bed, which is sometimes a big pain, as he is 6'1" and also is a diagonal sleeper (and sometimes stretches to fill any space not taken up by his legs, I'm convinced). There's a part of me that figures one of these nights I'll get an elbow to the eye, but it hasn't happened yet. I've gotten largely to being smushed, though, and have trouble sleeping when he isn't with me. Maybe the super-bed approach would work for us…

    0 agree
    • I can tell you the elbow to they eye is not a pleasant way to be rudely awakened. If I had the room for a super bed I would

      1 agrees
  13. If separate beds help you sleep better, they could make you a better partner. I think it's something worth trying if sleep deprivation affects your relationship! I know I have less patience and compassion (in general) when i am sleep deprived.

    I understand peoples' intimacy concerns, but bed isn't the ONLY place for intimacy and cuddling… you're sleeping most of the time. Cuddle on the couch. Lean on each others' backs while you're reading. Touch each others' arms, hands, backs, when you're talking or when you pass each other while in the middle of doing chores. The bed doesn't make intimacy happen, you do!

    If sleeping in the same bed is important to you:
    We use 2 sets of blankets on the same bed- it's messier but then there is no "hogging the covers" and helps with one partner who likes to sleep cool and one who likes to sleep warm. You can still tuck the sheets in at the bottom of the bed with a slight overlap. And then also the cat can't sleep between you and steal BOTH of your covers. :-)

    8 agree
    • "The bed doesn't make intimacy happen, you do!"

      This is exactly it! In the time since I submitted this post, we've created SuperBed, and we've also been more intentional about our interactions. Because we chose to prioritize our sleep in such a way, we've had to make adjustments to make sure we keep our intimacy and closeness. It isn't hard, but it's definitely more deliberate. And in the end, deliberately and consciously choosing to have those moments is a positive thing. We're opting in to intimacy, rather than defaulting to it, and I am all about that.

      And you're also super right about sleeping better making one a better partner. I hadn't thought about it that way, but it's 100% absolutely true that sleeping better makes me a better PERSON, so it follows that it's good for our relationship too.

      4 agree
  14. When my husband and I had a falling out we created a wall down the bed to keep us seperate and I loved it but we no longer do it, I miss the cuddlyness of the wall but not the associated fall out, however ever since we got together we've had seperate bedding. I have a cotton sleeping bag under the duvet because I like being cooler at night but my husband likes being roasting – best thing ever! Also my grandparents have taken seperate beds to a new extreme, seperate rooms! But my granddad snores very loudly.

    0 agree
  15. My FH and I have been sleeping in seperate beds for the past few months. Our old mattress is just too rough on my back and I toss and turn so much that I hardly get any sleep. I don't feel like it has hurt our relationship at all. Similar to some other posters it makes the cuddly time that much nicer because it isn't happening every night.

    I admit though, I do the same thing with my bedroom door. When company is over the door is shut and we don't bring it up. When it has come up we've gotten strange looks and have simply explained that it helps me sleep better.

    1 agrees
  16. There are other ways you can create those intimate moments you currently feel a little lacking. Try taking your showers together a few times a week. There doesn't have to be anything sexual involved, but if it happens it happens. It puts you both in a situation where you are (literally) made vulnerable. I recommend this to couples all the time. Some of the best conversations I've had with my partner happened while we were soaping up each other's back. Plus you know…steam…

    2 agree
  17. We have a Superbed! We squished my super-hard full-sized bed up next to his Memoryfoam-topped queen-sized bed. For us, this was part of cosleeping with our now two-year-old, but it is way better than the sometimes-we-sleep-in-separate-bedrooms-sometimes-we-sleep-together thing we had going before that, particularly for intimacy/snuggling. Now our little dude snuggles all night long with Papa, and my hugely pregnant self sleeps gloriously alone (until we have a newborn) and it's just all around awesome.

    0 agree
  18. My husband and I actually DO have separate rooms! Mostly because we both work overnight shifts, but I go in to work at 11 pm and he goes in a few hours later, at 1:30 in the morning. SO, I go to bed around noon and get up at 9. Being as it's difficult for me to sleep when the sun is shining anyway–he lets me sleep.

    At first, it was kind of an awkward thing…we have 2 dogs, and one is my BABY, and would bark at my husband when he would come to bed, and he'd just kinda go into the spare bedroom. Eventually, and especially now that we've bought a house and moved in, we just say, "that's Mike's room." I still consider the room I sleep in OUR room.

    I agree with those who have said that going to bed together has an extra "spark" when you don't usually share a bed! We do sleep in "our" room on weekends, dogs and all, though. It's probably our crazy schedule too, but I've found you kind of have to make time for intimacy. I think maybe the "just laid down, let's do it before we go to sleep" thing is something I've elevated in my mind since it's been so long since I've had a "normal" schedule.

    I don't think separate beds should be anything to be embarrassed about! Each couple has unique things they do to make their marriage and life together work. If you are a happy couple, people shouldn't judge how you choose to sleep, if it works for you!

    3 agree
  19. So, "Superbed" – not from personal experience, but from a close family member who had the same problem. He and his wife have totally opposite sleep habits, but didn't want separate beds because of the intimacy issue, so he bought two twin size mattresses, each to the individual's preference, and they just push them up next to each other. I'm not sure what they do about the fitted sheets (probably just buy individual ones) but then they got a giant California king size duvet/comforter for the top. Separate and unique mattresses, but combined to make…SUPERBED!!! Everyone wins!

    2 agree
    • My parents have this, too, but they actually bought a special bed that has a single base but two separate mattresses on top. My dad tosses and turns like anything and my mum's an insomniac, but this has really helped them.

      0 agree
  20. My parents have slept in separate beds for years. They are extra-long twins separated by their two night stands. They love it so much that when I bought a new house, my mom made me go out and buy a twin mattress so she didn't have to share the guest bed with my dad. My dad's parents slept in separate rooms for years because of snoring and reading late at night and such. They still found plenty of time for sexy times, something I did not need to know about my grandparents!

    1 agrees
  21. Thank you soooo much for your update Venus. I have toyed with the idea of seperate beds because I also suffer from poor sleep.

    My husband and I have very different sleeping "techniques." He likes to pull up the bedclothes and roll himself up, and then throw the sheets off when he gets hot. I can't stand that because he pulls the sheets away from me. He is a person who can get into bed, plunge into darkness by turning the light out and fall alseep instantly. I have to have an hour-long transition from light/dark and awake/sleep by reading in bed by a soft lamp. He can sleep through anything – earthquakes, emergency sirens, dogs howling at the moon. Hearing the mice in the hedge outside can disturb my sleep.

    Despite running on hardly any sleep every day, I've been really reluctant to switch to seperate beds. I'm worried that we'll end up as roomies rather than married, and we do rely a lot on cuddling in bed at night for our close touching contact.

    0 agree
  22. Can you just put superbed on the floor? and then scoot your ( short bed) a little further south to make room for a "headboard" at the head of your bed which you both can reach. We sleep separately several nights a week. I'm a super insomniac so I usually got to bed , cuddle and when he falls asleep I slip out and go watch TV, read, craft in the spare room.

    0 agree
  23. "I believe that a bed should be very warm and double as a fort…" THIS.

    My husband and I have a king-sized bed, but we have separate sheets/blankets. I could never share coverings with him. I'm adding my voice to the "SuperBed" vote. Cuddle/sexy-times when you want, roll over to sleep.

    We've considered separate bedrooms, since he snores like a dragon and our schedules are different, but I can't go that far. Sharing a room makes us feel like a couple and not roommates. But separate beds? Yeah, I can get behind that.

    1 agrees
  24. Superbed! I was very amused by this because we have Supercouch, which is our giant seventies beanbag chair combined with our couch. We dream of the day when we can get a huge sectional and both stretch out at one time.

    0 agree

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